Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Transfiguration and life

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light (Matt 17)

Dr B writes: "Today, 6 August, is the feast of the transfiguration. It is also the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A quarter of a century ago, the feast of the transfiguration fell within the WCC assembly in Vancouver, and on the eve of the feast (which in the Orthodox church is called the proeortia (service of preparation)) the assembly held a "vigil for peace and justice". Archbishop Olof Sundby of Sweden opened the vigil with a reminder of that "we sense the dark clouds of war that creep over us; we sit in the shadow of death". It heard an eye witness account of the Hiroshima bombing. Philip Potter, then WCC general secretary offered a meditation:

On 6 August 1945, I was participating, with other students, in a work camp in a poor area in Jamaica. In our devotions we had read this passage [of the
transfiguration of Jesus]. We hardly understood its meaning, and in our youthful questioning minds it eeme a very strange improbable story. When we had stopped working, we came back to our camp and listened to the evening news on the radio. We could hardly believe what we heard. On that very day, a bomb carrying a nuclear warhead had been dropped on the Japanese cuty of Hiroshima. It came as a blinding flash of light which created a huge cloud. But what resulted was wholesale destruction, the full extent of which we only read about later. Suddenly a connection came in my mind between the destructive shining light and clouds in Hiroshima, and the story of Jesus with his three disciples on the mountain ... Ever since, I have been haunted by it, This Transfiguration story has acquired, over the years, a new meaning for me and a challenge to my ministry.

Potter concluded by saying:

Our vigil tonight is a preparation for us to allow ourselves to be transfigured into the true image of God in christ that we may be his messenegrs of liberation, justice and peace in the world ... The vision of the transfigured Christ is our transfiguration that we may with clarity and courage listen to him and be obedient to his call to the blessedness of hungering and thirsting for justice and of beaing peacemakers.

At midnight, as the day of the feast of transfiguration began, Desmond Tutu, who had only at the last minute received permission from the South African authorities to travel to Vancouver, spoke to the vigil as he brandished his passport:

If you do not belive in the power of prayer, take it from me that the age of
miracles has not ceased. Otherwise, why am I here? We in South Africam who have had a few problems to handle have been upheld wonderfully by your tremendous prayers. When the power of eveil seems to be rampant, we have experienced God in your prayers like a wall of fire keeping away evil.

The nuclear bomb and apartheid in South Africa. These were the challenges to peace and justice in 1983. Though the Cold War and apartheid have ended, the world is still faced by the need for the transfiguration to life. The vigil spoke this affirmation on peace and justice, adapted from a creed in Indonesia:

I do not believe that suffering need be in vain, that death is the end, that the disfigurment of our world is what God intended. But I dare to believe, always and in spite of everything, in God's power to transform and transfigure, fulflling his promise of a new heaven and a new earth where justice and peace will flourish."